Become a certified host

How do I become a certified host?

San Francisco residents may only host short-term rentals in the same eligible home (residential unit) where they also live as a permanent resident (e.g. present at least 275 nights per year).

If a property features multiple residential units (apartments/suites/condominiums), then you may only host short-term rentals in the same residential unit where you also live as a permanent resident (accessory dwelling units are not eligible) for at least 275 nights per year. This is a core requirement of the City's short-term rental rules, which are intended to preserve long-term housing availability/opportunities and neighborhood character. Please take a moment to review the list of ineligible properties further below.

Step 1 of 2: Register as a business
Obtain a Business Registration Certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. Visit The San Francisco Business Portal to learn more about applying for a Business Registration Certificate online.
Recommendations:

  • When you complete the online business registration, make sure to use the street address of your home where you plan to host short-term rentals as the "business location." Include the apartment/condominium suite number or suffix, if applicable. For example: "222 49th Avenue Unit B." Do not use a post office box as the physical business location.
  • Indicate "YES" when asked if your business involves short-term rentals, and indicate "YES" when asked if your business involves transient occupancy tax ("hotel taxes"); and "NO" for utility users tax.
  • For the business type field, choose: "Accommodations."
  • For the business name you have a number of options, including using your own name (a fictitious business name, or "LLC" is not required), or using the street address number and street name as the business name.
  • Please do not choose "exempt" for business licensing, as that option is typically reserved for non-profit organizations.
  • If you already have a business registration for a separate type of business you operate in San Francisco, then update your account with the SF Treasurer and add a "new business location" for Accommodations at the physical address of the residential unit. You can still add a second location even if it is the same location as your current business location.

    Note: This step must be finalized before you can register as a certified host with our office.

    Step 2 of 2: Register to become a certified host
    Obtain a host certificate (valid for 2 years) from the Office of Short-Term Rentals. You may only offer (list/advertise) short-term-rentals after you have received this certificate (or, if you have a complete application pending, for an eligible host and eligible property, with the Office), and your certificate number must be posted on all listings advertising your short-term rental. Review the eligibility requirements below. Please do not apply if you do not reside full-time at the individual dwelling unit (apartment/suite/home) as a permanent resident (please see the "Am I Eligible" Section further below).

    Click here to visit the SF Business Portal and register online.

    Or click here to download the application and make an appointment to register in-person with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Please note that staff can arrange for assistance in different languages, if needed. In-person appointments do not result in a faster review. Choose the option that says: "Step 4: Apply with OSTR (Office of Short-Term Rentals)."

    After you submit a complete application, if you would like to start listing your property on a hosting website (platform) and need assistance enabling short-term stays, please contact us at shortermrentals@sfgov.org and provide your name and property address including unit number, if any.

    The application fee is valid for two-years from when the short-term rental application is approved. The recent application fee increase is based on a provision of the City’s short-term rental law (Section 41A.5[g][3][B] of the San Francisco Administrative Code). This provision requires that the fee be modified periodically to reflect the operating costs for administering the City’s short-term rental program and is based on studies by the City’s Office of the Controller. The administration of the City’s short-term rental program is funded primarily by application fees and enforcement penalties; and does not include funding from hotel taxes (also known as transient occupancy taxes).

Why must I register to become a certified host?

Short-term rentals in residences are only legal if you are registered with the San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector and have also received a certificate from the Office of Short-Term-Rentals.

If you are not certified and you advertise/rent a dwelling unit for periods of less than 30 nights, you are violating the City's short-term rental laws, and are subject to possible enforcement action, including substantial penalties.

You may host short-term rentals if you have a complete application pending review with our Office; currently reside in the dwelling unit; and there are also no City complaints pending against the entire property. Please note that our Office cannot require hosting platforms to operate a listing while an application is pending (but please contact us if you run into this issue - as we can typically get hosts re-listed in a few days). Also, please note that if you are a renter, our Office cannot require the property owner to allow your short-term rental activity in the event that private leases, or other private agreements prohibit such activity. If the application is ultimately denied, then the host would need to cease short-term rentals.

Frequently Asked Question: Did the primary law on short-term rentals change?
Yes. Prior to 2015, all short-term residential rentals (stays of less than 30 days) were illegal in San Francisco (per the City's Planning Code). This included rentals for the entire home, or just a portion (e.g. private room listings). Beginning in February 2015, hosts were eligible to register, with the Office of Short-Term Rentals, in order to host limited short-term rentals; and only in eligible homes where the host also lives at least 275 nights per year.

Violations of the City’s short-term rental laws are subject to penalties of at least $484 per day for each dwelling unit in violation. These daily penalties begin on the day that a Notice of Violation is issued by the Office of Short-Term Rentals, and continue to accrue until the violation is fully abated. Repeat violations may be subject to escalated penalties and referral to the City’s Attorney’s Office for additional civil and/or criminal penalties.

The San Francisco Property Information Map (under the "Planning Apps" tab) shows whether a short-term rental registry application has been approved for a property. No other identifying information from your application is posted online or provided to the public.

Am I eligible to legally host short-term rentals?

In order to start hosting short-term residential rentals in your home you must meet all of the following conditions:

1. Be the permanent resident
You must live in the actual dwelling unit (e.g. apartment, suite, condominium) that you wish to offer as a short-term rental for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year, as either an owner or a tenant. If your property features multiple dwelling units, you may not live in one dwelling unit, while operating short-term rentals in a different dwelling unit.

  • If you are a new resident, you must have resided in this specific dwelling for at least 60 consecutive days prior to your application.
  • If you own/rent a multi-unit building, you may only register the specific residential unit (apartment, suite, condominium) in which you reside.

Certain types of properties are never eligible for short-term rental. Please contact us at shorttermrentals@sfgov.org if you are not sure how your property is classified.

  1. Income-restricted affordable housing, including Below-Market-Rate (BMR) units and public housing.
  2. Student housing, dormitories and Single-Room-Occupancy (SRO) buildings. However, some SROs are allowed (subject to Department of Building Inspection - Housing Inspection Services regulation) to offer short-term rentals during the "tourist season," which runs from May 1 through September 30. See Section 41.19 of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
  3. Buildings subject to an Ellis Act (No Fault) eviction after November 1, 2014 (even if by a prior property owner).
  4. Legally-established Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); which are a specific type of "in-law" or "granny flat" approved by the Department of Building Inspection. Only rentals/listings for 30 days or longer, per guest (30-day minimum stay), are allowed in ADUs. Please note that "housekeeping units" are not classified as ADUs; but are considered an entirely separate individual dwelling unit. Short-term rentals hosts must live in the same individual dwelling unit, so they could not reside in the main unit and utilize the "housekeeping units" for short-term rentals (or vice versa).
  5. Sleeping quarters in most shipping containers and outdoor areas, including tipis (teepees) and tree houses.
  6. Sleeping quarters in vans or (RVs) recreational vehicles (this may also violate the Police Code). RVs are not considered residential units.
  7. Non-residential areas within buildings, such as living/sleeping quarters added in garages.
  8. Commercial office/retail or industrial (warehouse) spaces.
  9. Properties located in Treasure Island, Fort Mason, or The Presidio.
  10. Boats or similar watercraft (prohibited by Harbormasters); unless a sole operator at Pier 39 not subject to OSTR registration.
  11. Group Housing properties, which are subject to the Planning Code (plus other Building & Housing Codes), and are not eligible for registration as a short-term rental under Chapter 41A of the Administrative Code. Legal Group Housing properties may offer stays of no less than seven (7) days per guest.

Rules for Residential Hotels

  • A limited number of Residential Hotels are allowed to offer tourist hotel (short-term) stays in a portion of their rooms, based on a list maintained by the Department of Building Inspection.
  • Those specific rooms may be offered for tourist stays without registering with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Operators may list these tourist-licensed rooms using their business account number (BAN) issued by the Tax Collector, in lieu of a short-term rental registration number.

Rules for Tourist Hotels or Timeshares

  • "Tourist Hotels" (which are different from Residential Hotels), and Timeshare properties (if approved as a timeshare unit by the Department of Building Inspection) are allowed to offer tourist hotel (short-term) stays in all units.
  • Tourist Hotels and Timeshares are not required to register (nor eligible) with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. These properties may still require a (separate) business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. Operators may list these specific units using their business account number (BAN) issued by the Tax Collector, in lieu of a short-term rental registration number.
  • Timeshare properties include 586-598 Bush Street (even numbers only), 2198 Jackson Street, 1000-1006 Pine Street (even numbers only), 2655 Hyde Street, 3000 Pine Street, 329-333 Fulton Street (odd numbers only), 441 Mason Street, 501 Post Street, 710-730 Powell Street (even numbers only), 690 Market Street, and 900 North Point Street, 726 Sutter Street and 750 Sutter Street.
  • If you run into a problem listing these units on a hosting platform, please contact OSTR staff via e-mail and provide the street address, unit number, if applicable, and listing information.

Rules for Live/Work Units or Artist Live-Work Units.

  • You can host short-term rentals in the residential portion of a live/work unit or "artist live/work unit," if you are a permanent resident of that unit and both live in AND host short-term rental guests exclusively in the "live" area of the unit.
  • Short-term rental activity (e.g. sleeping, lounging/resting, or cooking areas) is NOT allowed in the "work" portion of the live/work or artist live/work unit. This is typically noted as such in a Notice of Special Restrictions, or "NSR," recorded on the overall property.
  • You may not reside in the "work" area and use the "live" area of the live/work or artist live/work unit for short-term rentals.
  • Please note that many NSRs require that the resident of an artist live/work unit use the work space for specific types of arts-related business activities and hold a business registration for that specific activity. Short-term rentals would not be considered qualifying business activity.

Many private agreements such as leases, homeowner’s association bylaws, and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibit subletting (or use of your dwelling unit as a short-term rental). While the City does not enforce these types of private agreements, the Office of Short-Term Rentals strongly recommends that you review such agreements before submitting an application.

If you are a resident (whether a co-owner or tenant) of a tenancy-in-common (TIC) building, or are a co-owner of your dwelling unit, we will send a notice of your application to all co-owners of the building.

If you are a renter (tenant), in any type of property, we will send a courtesy notice to the owner(s) of your unit to inform them of your application. You may also need to provide a copy of your lease to staff.

If you are a renter and your dwelling unit is also subject to rent control rules, you may not make more than your monthly rent from short-term rental fees charged in the same month to guests.

To see if a property (home, condominium or apartment) is already registered to host short-term rentals,visit the City's Property Information Map, search for the address of the property, and click on the 'Planning Apps' tab. A Short-Term Rental Certificate will be listed (at the bottom of the Planning Apps screen) if one is currently active on the property.

Please note that pending or denied applications are not displayed on the Property Information Map.

Frequently Asked Question Item: Approximately 16% of registered short-term rental hosts identified themselves as a renter on their short-term rental application. However, it appears a number of those applicants that indicated they were renting the unit, appear to share the same surname as the property owner.

For properties located in RH-1(D) zoning districts, neighborhood notification is required. This means that if you live in one of these districts, after you submit a complete application we will send a courtesy notice, with your name and address, to all property owners and residential tenants who live within 300 feet of your unit (and nearby neighborhood groups registered with the Planning Department). They will have 45 days to submit comments to us. Neighborhood input will only affect your application if someone submits sufficient evidence that you, or your unit is not eligible to host short-term rentals.

You can check to see if you live in an RH-1(D) district on the Property Information Map. Search for your address, and then choose the Zoning tab on the right to see your zoning district.

Many private agreements such as homeowner’s association (HOA) bylaws, and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibit subletting or use of your dwelling unit as a short-term rental. While the City does not enforce these types of private agreements, the Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR) strongly recommends that you review such agreements before submitting an application.

Please note that OSTR staff cannot deny an application in an RH-1D zoning district on the basis of HOA rules, generalized parking concerns, or proximity to schools. The core requirements for eligibility are the same throughout the City.

2. Have property liability insurance
You must have property liability insurance in the amount of no less than $500,000, or provide proof that property liability coverage in an equal or higher amount is being provided by any and all hosting platforms through which you will rent your unit. Proof of liability insurance is not required if hosting activity is only handed by a platform (website) that already extends similar liability coverage.

3. Resolve any code violations
Ensure that your dwelling unit remains compliant with all Building, Housing, Planning, and other City codes. If your dwelling unit (apartment/suite) is located within an apartment building or tenancy-in-common (TIC) building, then the entire property (including other dwelling units) must be compliant and not subject to Code Enforcement.

4. Observe Group Housing limits
The City's short-term rental program is not intended to serve as a vehicle to operate a home as a de facto tourist hostel and in a manner that is not generally associated with primary residential use and character. So for example, if the host is present overnight throughout the year in the residential unit, they may not host more than five (5) simultaneous distinct renters (whether long-term or short-term) in the same residential unit. For the purpose of this example, a couple sharing a bedroom and a single reservation would count as one distinct renter toward the limit.

What is allowed once I'm a certified host?

Once you have received a Short-Term Residential Rental Registration Number you may:

  • Put up listing(s) on hosting platform websites (including your registration number in all listings).
  • Rent a portion of your unit for less than 30 consecutive nights while you are also present (hosted rentals) for an unlimited number of nights per calendar year
  • Rent a portion or your entire unit for less than 30 consecutive nights while you are not present (unhosted rentals), for a maximum of 90 nights per calendar year

What you may never do with your registered dwelling unit:

  • You may never rent your residential unit or a portion of your home for more than 90 nights per calendar year while you are not also present overnight during the time of the guests' stay.
  • You may never rent illegal residential units, or those areas within your home that were built without completed building permits.
  • If you are a tenant (renter) in a rent-controlled unit, you may never make more than your monthly rent from your short-term rental fees charged in the same month to guests.
  • You may not offer more than 5 individual short-term rental reservations within your dwelling unit at the same time (i.e. offer no more than 5 individual beds as separate, bookable listings).

What if my application is rejected or my certificate is revoked or suspended?

If your application for a certificate is rejected, suspended, or if a previously-issued certificate has been revoked by the Office of Short-Term Rentals, you may file a written appeal within thirty calendar days from the date of the notice of rejection, suspension, or revocation. Hosts must cancel any pending reservations (for stays of less than 30 days) and remove any online listings (offering stays of less than 30 days), if an application is denied (even if an appeal is filed), or if a certificate is suspended or revoked (even if an appeal is filed). For further information, please review these procedures.